This is a podcast for people interested in building or designing tech products.
At least once a week, I speak to product managers, product leaders, product marketers, UX professionals, and anyone else involved in product management and product delivery.
Come and listen to some great conversations and get inspired!
Listen on your favourite podcast app or on https://www.oneknightinproduct.com
Making Sure You Make an Impact through User Research (with Steve Portigal, User Research Consultant & Author ”Interviewing Users”)
Steve Portigal is an experienced user researcher and author of two books, "Interviewing Users" and "Doorbells Danger, and Dead Batteries". Steve is a passionate advocate for the value of user research, and ensuring that people can find out compelling insights from their users. He's recently re-released a 10th-anniversary edition of "Interviewing Users", and we spoke about some themes from the book and how to make an impact with user research.
1. Some people are still wary of user research, or think they don't need it, but it remains as important as ever
It can be tempting for founders to think they know exactly what they need, rely on feedback from customer-facing teams, or not speak to anyone until they've already built the thing they want to build. Feedback from sales teams and founders is an incredibly important vector, but should only be the start of the discussion never the end.
2. Continuous discovery and point-in-time research both have a place in a researcher's armoury
There are methodological constraints to continuous research, alongside the difficulty of finding the time and buy-in to do it but, on the other hand, it can be incredibly impactful to have rapid research tightly coupled to the product team. On the other hand, well-planned up-front research can still help you to find truly disruptive insights for your company. Do both!
3. We all have cognitive biases - we should accept that and be honest with ourselves about their effects
People look at the word "bias" and worry about the negative connotations, but "bias" just represents how our brains are wired. Cognitive biases will affect how we interview people, and we should do our best to counteract their effect and improve on getting better (even if we're not perfect).
4. The best research has a tangible impact rather than being research for research's sake
It can be a heavy burden to bear if all of your well-planned and well-executed research ends up having no effect on decision-making at all. It's important not to get downhearted, and work out ways to build actionable, accessible repositories to enable your stakeholders to make the best decisions possible.
5. There are a lot of similarities between good user research and improv
We don't need to be able to create 45-minute plays off the cuff, and knowing when to stick to our interview plans and when to deviate from the script, enables us to get to the real generative insights that we need from our users and find out what we don't know we don't know.
Buy "Interviewing Users (2nd edition)"
"Interviewing people is a skill that most professionals who do research assume they already possess. But not everyone knows how to ask questions well. Expert researcher Steve Portigal updates his classic Interviewing Users to provide fresh guidance on interviewing techniques, as well as new content. This edition includes a new foreword by Jamika D. Burge and features two new chapters: one about analysis and synthesis and sharing research results, and another about ensuring that your user research efforts will have an impact on your organization. There are seven new short essays (we call them sidebars) from guest contributors. Plus, you’ll find updated examples, stories, and tips for leading interviews, and new sections about bias, remote research, ResearchOps, planning research, and research logistics. You’ll move from simply gathering data to uncovering powerful insights about people."
My listeners can get 20% off with promo code KNIGHT on the Rosenfeld Media website. This code is valid until 21st December, 2023. Alternatively, check it out on Amazon.
You can catch up with Steve on LinkedIn or visit Portigal.com.
Helping Superhero Startup Founders Stay Away from their Kryptonite (with Richard Blundell, Founder @ Vencha & Co-author ”The Go To Market Handbook for B2B SaaS Leaders”)
Richard Blundell is a serial entrepreneur and startup advisor who helps B2B startups win by getting them uncomfortably narrow and solving critical problems. He also believes that startup founders are heroes, and recently published a book trying to help them avoid common mistakes and have the best chance of putting a dent in the universe. We discussed his approach, and what on Earth he's got against product managers.
A message from this episode's sponsor - SuperProduct
This episode is sponsored by SuperProduct. Have you ever wished you could simplify competitive research, and reduce time commitment and effort but still get extraordinary insights? Well, have I got news for you! You can try SuperProduct's new course which teaches you how to unlock the potential of AI-powered insights about your competitors and about your market. This course demystifies AI and teaches you how to be the mega prompt maestro that will transform ChatGPT into your personal research assistant. Check the course out here, and make sure to use code KNIGHT to support this podcast.
1. Your best chance to win in B2B is to get "uncomfortably narrow" and solve a visceral problem
Startup founders often start off spraying and praying, hoping to get any traction at all and start to build their revenue. This is understandable, but generally a mistake. It's important to start off way more narrow than feels comfortable and have a really solid plan to get your next 25 customers. Everything else can follow.
2. It's easy to get misaligned and lose sight of your core value proposition
Even when organisations start off with a solid value proposition, this can change over time. But, in any case, one of the main problems with startups slowing down (or failing to scale up) is often not a lack of sales ability, but a lack of fundamental GTM narrative. You need to fix it upstream.
3. Startup founders are heroes...
Startup founders put everything on the line to bring a sometimes impossible-seeming vision to fruition. It's easy to criticise them when things are going wrong, but no one has invested more time and effort into their startup than them.
4. ... but even heroes have weaknesses
It's important for founders to be self-reflective and understand their own weak spots. In some cases, this is the first leadership position they've ever held. In other cases, they'll have glaring gaps based on their own past experience. It's OK to have gaps! But, it's important to be honest about the gaps and get the right people to help you.
5. Your first hire at a B2B startup shouldn't be a Head of Sales (or a Product Manager!)
It's tempting to get a seasoned seller into the business to get the numbers in but, actually, there's an even more crucial role that you need to hire first. Listen to the episode to find out who, but it's not a product manager - this can come later after you've got a foothold in the market and the founder can no longer scale.
Buy "The Go To Market Handbook for B2B SaaS Leaders"
"There are few people we admire more than the Founders and Leaders of software companies who have the courage, determination and, some might say, sheer madness to put their livelihoods and reputation on the line, to leave their own ‘dent in the universe’. It's a day to day, up at dawn, pride swallowing siege to lead such a business. And we know this for a fact because we’ve walked in your shoes many times. Over the last 25 years, we’ve been involved in the start-up, scale up and exit of several successful technology businesses, that between them have realized close to billion dollars of shareholder value. But along the way we've also had more than our fair share of disappointments and have the mental scars and bruising to prove it. We’ve made mistakes and fallen in what felt like bottomless pits. But fascinatingly enough, we learned as much from the ones that didn’t work, as we did from the successes. It’s these lessons which we thought we'd share in this b
Making our Product Teams Stronger through Building Communities of Practice (with Petra Wille, Author ”Strong Product People” and ”Strong Product Communities”)
Petra Wille is a product leadership coach and the author of "Strong Product People" and "Strong Product Communities". Petra is passionate about helping product teams excel and found that some of the best companies she's worked with use "Communities of Practice" to support product manager growth. We spoke all about this, and how people can get started.
A message from this episode's sponsor - SuperProduct
This episode is sponsored by SuperProduct. Have you ever wished you could simplify competitive research, reduce time commitment and effort but still get extraordinary insights? Well, have I got news for you! You can try SuperProduct's new course which teaches you how to unlock the potential of AI-powered insights about your competitors and about your market. This course demystifies AI and teaches you how to be the mega prompt maestro that will transform ChatGPT into your personal research assistant. Check the course out here, and make sure to use code KNIGHT to support this podcast.
1. Product managers forming communities of practice leads to great outcomes.
Organisations where product teams form bottoms-up communities of practice are more up to date in their knowledge and thinking, work more closely together and break down silos. Forming these communities makes better product work easier.
2. No two communities of practice are the same (but they're all valuable)
Sometimes, it's just a peer learning group. Sometimes, it's a book club. Sometimes it's just a bunch of people going to conferences together. Sometimes it's just a way to share updates with each other. The precise format of a community, and the rituals it observes, are less important than that it exists.
3. You need to get a rhythm going earlier to build the muscle memory of a community
It's easy to see community engagement as something that will atrophy over time, and this is possible, but it's relatively straightforward to build an early rhythm to bed in practices and build muscle memory to make sure that the community sticks.
4. The best way to get started is to focus on human-to-human connections, not canvasses, for your minimum viable community
It's important to focus your community on solving real problems that the team has, rather than the philosophical concept of "learning", which is valuable, but not tangible enough. Find things that matter, and get people together around those things.
5. Even if you're in a small company, there are still communities there for you.
You might think that communities of practice are just for bigger companies and, to some extent, they are. However, there are always communities out there that will help you; either communities of people with a specific interest or just general meetup communities where you can chat with peers.
Buy "Strong Product Communities"
"STRONG Product Communities is a comprehensive guide that empowers product people, product leaders, HR, and Learning & Development professionals to develop and nurture successful product Communities of Practice (CoP). The book offers valuable insights gathered from survey data, interviews with CoP leaders, and the author’s hands-on experience."
Check it out on Amazon.
Buy "Strong Product People"
"Are you a product leader looking for advice on how to be certain that every product manager on your team lives up to their full potential? Do you want to make sure your product people are competent, empowered, and inspired, and would you like to know how you can best help them on this journey? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this book is for you!"
Check it out on Amazon.
You can connect with Petra on LinkedIn. You can also check out Strong Product People, or Petra's coaching website.
Going Beyond the Dreaded Product Demo and Creating the Perfect Sales Pitch (with April Dunford, Author ”Obviously Awesome” and ”Sales Pitch”)
April Dunford is a world-renowned expert in product positioning who wrote the bestselling "Obviously Awesome" to help us all nail our product positioning. She then realised that companies were having trouble translating this positioning into a sales pitch that worked in the field, so she's back now with "Sales Pitch", a step-by-step process to craft a winning pitch. We spoke about the story behind the book and some of the themes within it.
1. All companies have a sales pitch, but most people don't seem to know where it came from
There hasn't been a standard sales pitch approach since forever and, most of the time, it seems that companies just hand the same document down from sales rep to sales rep without ever really considering what it says, or even who owns it. But, there's a method to create one that wins.
2. The sales pitch should be grounded in your positioning
It's really important to move beyond just a big list of features with some marketing slides at the front and back, and have a sales deck that tells a story about your differentiated value, your view on the market, and why you are uniquely positioned to solve the problems that market has.
3. Your product demo should be done upfront, but not all features are equal so you don't need to demo them all
You need to organise your product demos around your differentiated value and take prospects on a journey rather than clicking through every single button and tab in the product. You need to show them why the features you have matter, not just that you have them.
4. You need to call out your competitors because your customers are already thinking about them
It's natural to want to talk about yourself, and not mention your competitors at all. But, if you don't position yourself against your competitors then you allow your competitors to position themselves against you. Prospects want help navigating alternatives, and that means not just concentrating on yourself.
5. There are always potential objections to your sales pitch, so get in front of these objections
Again, it's natural to try to avoid calling out perceived weaknesses in your product, but good salespeople already handle these in the field. It's worth getting ahead of these objections so you can answer them upfront because prospects aren't always going to mention them explicitly.
Buy "Sales Pitch"
"World-renowned product positioning and marketing expert April Dunford knows that standing out in a crowded market is the key to getting sales. In Sales Pitch, she shows entrepreneurs, salespeople, marketers, and business leaders how they can achieve success by building a narrative that clearly communicates how your product is different and better than anything else on the market. Using a simple step-by-step method and compelling case stories, the author of Obviously Awesome guides you through a solid sales pitch structure that helps customers make confident buying decisions, while positioning you to clearly win in the market."
Check it out on Amazon.
Buy "Obviously Awesome"
"You know your product is awesome — but does anybody else? Forget everything you thought you knew about positioning. Successfully connecting your product with consumers isn’t a matter of following trends, comparing yourself to the competition or trying to attract the widest customer base. So what is it? April Dunford, positioning guru and tech exec, will enlighten you."
Check it out on Amazon.
You can catch up with April on LinkedIn. You can also check her podcast, Positioning with April Dunford or her newsletter, also called Positioning with April Dunford.
Nailing your Product/Market Fit Strategy by Focusing on the Mission Critical (with Maja Voje, Growth Strategy Expert & Author ”Go-To-Market Strategist”)
Maja Voje is a growth strategy expert who has worked with some of the largest tech companies in the world. Through her consulting, she realised that there was a problem holding companies back from product/market fit. Unable to find a playbook to guide companies to the promised land, she decided to research and write one herself. We chatted about the book and some of the themes within it.
1. 95% of startups will not survive, but you can work together to beat the odds
It's not normally a bad product that's the problem. There are a zillion reasons for startup failure, but beating the odds is not a product management or a sales or marketing problem. We have to work cross-functionally, join forces and work together to align the company around success.
2. Product/market fit is more than just delivering value, but being able to build a sustainable business
Traditional definitions of product/market fit focus on whether you can deliver value to a specific market segment, but it's important to bring other dimensions into play, such as the most effective business model and people's willingness to pay. You have to capture enough value to build a sustainable business.
3. It's essential to pick a niche, define your ideal customers, and stick to the plan
It's really easy for early startup founders to try to go wide and fix everyone's problems, but this is generally a mistake. It's important to maintain discipline, be strategic, and realise that not all opportunities are created equal. You don't have to make a sale at all costs.
4. You're probably not charging enough for your solution, but your customers aren't going to price it for you
Founders sometimes fall prey to product imposter syndrome, where they fail to extract fair value from their customers because they're not sure the product is good enough, or feel bad asking for money. We need money! But, don't expect your customers to just tell you a fair price. It's important to do decent pricing research.
5. We can learn a lot from "special ops" thinking
Business science has matured over the last couple of hundred years, but there are timeless principles from military strategy that can help us succeed. Pitting small resources against larger competition, being nimble, responding to change and executing fast can help us succeed in a crowded marketplace.
Check out "Go-To-Market Strategist"
"In Growth and Marketing, we were taught how the “big tech” companies grew to their heights more than a decade ago. They had bigger budgets, teams, and global talent. Markets were less saturated. Customers were more excited about innovation. You need a different playbook for GTM. One that applies to bootstrap startups, clever leaders in innovative companies, and independent innovators. So I went on a journey. I devoted a year of my life to interviewing 54 experts from companies such as: Hubspot, Miro, Figma, Metabase, CXL, and many more to ask them to share their “go to market” advice that will most securely and successfully guide you to product-market fit."
Check out the book website.
You can catch up with Maja on LinkedIn.
Fearlessly Defeating the Four Horsemen of a Product-Friendly Culture (with Eisha Armstrong, Co-founder @ Vecteris & Author ”Productize” & ”Fearless”)
Eisha Armstrong is a company founder, digital transformation consultant and author of "Productize" and new book "Fearless". This new book goes deep on the cultural underpinnings of productisation, and how company leader can align their teams and quell their own fears.
1. Many leaders are afraid of productisation...
Leaders want the benefits of productisation, but are afraid to jump in because of the investment required, and whether the bets are going to pay off.
2. ... But their employees are afraid too
Employees are afraid that they are going to lose their jobs, that their skills and knowledge will become less valuable, or that the client they have invested time in will reject the new model.
3. It's important to sell the vision and the "why" behind productisation
It's no surprise that products need a vision, but it's even more important to explain the "why" of productisation, and to connect an aspirational vision to the hard business metrics and KPIs that resonate with a service-mindset organisation.
4. The hallmarks of a successful services firm can kill a product-friendly culture
Eisha talks about the four horsemen of product-friendly culture: Knowing, Perfectionism, Scarcity Mindset and Individual Heroics. Productisation changes the game and these traits can sink productisation efforts. The company needs to shift mindset and probably needs to bring in new expertise.
5. Product leaders in service-mindset organisations have to be different
Product leaders in transforming organisations are not the same as product leaders in tech-first product organisations. Technical chops are secondary, and they need to have much better stakeholder management and communication skills to succeed. They need to ensure there is no tissue rejection by an organisation that just doesn't understand.
"Transforming a B2B services business model to a more scalable, profitable, productized company can have many points of failure - but the biggest and most underserved is the cultural transformation required to support successful productization. The encore book from Eisha Armstrong and her team at Vecteris, Fearless tackles this frequent point of failure and dives deep on the change management required to build a Product-Friendly Culture."
Check it out on Amazon. You can also check out the book website
"More and more traditional professional services firms are turning to "productization" as a strategy to grow, improve valuations, and to fend off new digital-first competitors. However, many of them will fail and waste a lot of money in the process. Productize first outlines the "Seven Deadly Productization Mistakes" made when pursuing a product strategy, then provides the blueprint for overcoming each of these missteps. It is designed to be a practical playbook for any leader of a professional services business who wants to successfully accelerate growth."
Check it out on Amazon. You can also check out the book website
You can catch up with Eisha on LinkedIn.
A brilliant podcast debut!
Amazing. With wit and a good deal of explanation this manages to cut through product and developer jargon to create a narrative even a novice like me can understand. I would have called this ‘crypto craze or crypto craziness?’ but that’s pretty unimportant. I will be listening next week! Keep it up.